Resting for Energy - Music Theory Hack for Better Bass Lines

In this Hack Music Theory lesson, you'll discover why your bass lines lack energy, and we'll give you two hacks to fix it. But first... Tea!

Hello, we are Kate Harmony & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony), and welcome to the Hack Music Theory show, where you are empowered with notation-free theory for making great music in DAWs.

HACK 1 - Resting for Energy
Counterintuitively, adding lots of well-placed rests to your bass line, actually adds energy to it. And there’s two ways you can do this to pump up your low-end. Firstly, adding a rest before a note that’s on the beat, gives that note extra punch. And secondly, adding a rest before a note that’s off the beat, gives that note extra groove. And yes, this bass hack works in all situations, but it’s even more effective when the chords above are smoothly connected (which is known as “legato”), as that contrast provides space for your pumping bass line to do its thang!

Alright so let’s have a look at some examples of those two types of rests. You can see that the first note of our bass line has been shortened, to create a rest on beat 2, which adds extra groove to the note coming in on beat 2+. We then use this same type of rest again on beat 4, to also add extra groove to the note coming in on beat 4+. But then in our second bar, we totally change things up, by using the other type of rest on beat 3, which gives the note on beat 4 an extra punch. Then that’s immediately followed by the other type of rest again at the beginning of our third bar, which brings back that extra groove on beat 1+.

HACK 2 - Phat ♭5
If you’re already using the “funky trio of notes” in your bass line, as we are in the first three beats, then you can kick things up to a whole new level, by borrowing the ♭5 from the Blues scale. And by the way, if you don’t know about the “funky trio of notes”, or the Blues scale, you can learn about all that (and a bunch more) in our Songwriting & Producing PDF. So, using the ♭5 creates a delightfully dirty dissonance, which ramps up the phatness of your bass line big time. You can find the ♭5 by moving one semitone down from the 5 in your key. For example, in our key of F♯ minor, the 5 is C♯, so the ♭5 is C♮. Beware though, this note is non-diatonic (AKA not in the key), so it’s gonna clash with your chords above, and that’s why the ♭5 usually works best as a quick note.

Yeah exactly, and you can see we have two ♭5s in our bass line, one high C and one low C, and both of them are 16th notes. What’s even more interesting though, is that while our first C is over the F♯m chord, our second C is over the E chord, so that second C is actually perceived as a ♭6, not a ♭5. And the context of this E chord makes the C a little less dissonant than it was over the F♯m chord, and that’s a powerful hack in itself. So, use the phat ♭5 over your key’s root chord for maximum dirty dissonance, and try it over another chord in your key for a slightly diluted dissonance, like we did here over the E, which is our ♭VII chord.

The example in this video is the bridge section from of our upcoming single “Down with the Drama”, which features the amazing Sarah Serene on vocals. If you missed any of our previous videos on this song, check out our YouTube playlist.

Lastly, do you struggle to finish your music? If you do, then check out our online apprenticeship course, where you’ll learn how to effortlessly write new sections for existing sections, how to transition between them, and most importantly, how to finish your songs! For more info, just head on over to our Apprenticeship Course. Alright, enjoy the video/podcast.

Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada

1: Read our free book (below) & watch our YouTube videos
2: Read our "Part 1" book & "Songwriting & Producing" PDF
3: Learn how to become a song-whisperer, and effortlessly finish music!

Hack Music Theory is the pioneering notation-free method for making great music. Taught by award-winning music lecturer Ray Harmony, and his protégé (and wife) Kate Harmony, from their studio in Vancouver BC, Canada. Ray is the author of critically-acclaimed book series "Hack Music Theory", and has made music with Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Ihsahn (Emperor), Kool Keith (Ultramagnetic MCs), Madchild (Swollen Members), and many more. Kate has the highest grade distinction in Popular Music Theory from the London College of Music, and is the only person on the planet who's been trained by Ray to teach his Hack Music Theory method! While these Hack Music Theory YouTube lessons teach music theory for producers and DAW users, they are designed to accommodate all music makers (songwriters, guitarists, etc.) and all genres, from Electronic Music to R&B, Pop to Hip-Hop, Reggae to Rock, EDM/Dance to Metal (and yes, we djefinitely Djent!).